Board delays vote to buy bulldozer

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK — A $311,000 bulldozer for the landfill sparked a heated discussion among Shenandoah County leaders Tuesday.

No one spoke during the public hearing held on the request earlier in the meeting. But when the Board of Supervisors later was expected to take action on the request, members raised questions about the bidding process, the people involved and whether or not the county could have found a better deal.

Ultimately, the board decided to revisit the matter at its Oct. 2 work session and to have Landfill Operations Manager Brad Dellinger attend to answer some members’ questions.

Assistant County Administrator Evan Vass gave a brief presentation on the request. Vass said the county secured an interest rate of 1.68 percent and would make annual payments of $64,450 for five years. The county’s current budget includes $68,782 to cover the first year’s payment. The county would need to use $242,503 from savings to buy the vehicle outright.

The county currently uses two bulldozers, each approximately 18 years old. A new bulldozer could last 20-25 years, Vass said. In July, the county issued an invitation to bid on a 2014 John Deere bulldozer. The county received a low bid of $311,285 from James River Equipment in Winchester.

When the board was about to consider leasing the equipment or buying the bulldozer outright, Supervisor Cindy Bailey had another idea.

“I’d like to go back to the drawing board,” Bailey said. “Who wrote the specs for this bulldozer request?”

Vass said that Dellinger, in consultation with an equipment dealer, wrote the specs for the advertisement for bids.

“Why would anyone deliberately write specs to exclude manufacturers such as Caterpillar, Case, and others who may well offer better equipment and pricing?” Bailey asked.

She suggested the board table the request so that supervisors can talk to landfill officials about it. Bailey also questioned why the county should not consider a different bid that came in at more than $84,000 less than the one under review. She noted that the cheaper vehicle did not appear to meet the specs drafted by the county official and the John Deere representative.

“Only John Deere makes it, so only John Deere can bid on it,” Bailey said. “I think that’s wrong and possibly illegal as far as the bidding process goes.”

County Attorney J. Jay Litten said the Virginia Public Procurement Act allows a party that helped draft specifications to bid on a job as long as the party was not paid to do the work.

Chairman David Ferguson said he believed the county went through the proper procedures to look for and possibly buy a unique bulldozer.

Lawrence Equipment of Cloverdale, Virginia, submitted a bid of $227,000 for a bulldozer — $84,000 cheaper. However, Lawrence offered to sell the county a bulldozer made by Case. The county bid request specifically asked for a John Deere bulldozer.

Bailey raised the question of why the county couldn’t buy the cheaper vehicle. Vass mentioned that the county landfill already uses John Deere equipment and operators decided a John Deere vehicle would best meet their needs.

The board fell under some pressure to take action on the purchase request because the price in the bid may not last after Oct. 3. Vass told board members they could reject the offer and start the process over.

“I’d prefer the board be comfortable with what we’re doing,” Vass said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com